With a Little Help From My Friends

Struggling to write about the shame and guilt we so easily throw toward others, I found myself headed back to the frustration that nearly ended my writing before.  How many times did I restart this one post?  How many hours had I toiled already, still unable to describe what I sensed?  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe it wasn’t as clear as I thought when I was certain it was the topic.  It needed to come from the Father’s heart of love in Christ; yet I had only tried to fit it in, rather than it being the foundation.

Only when I gave myself a break and checked email did I find what was needed all along.  A notice for the latest blog post from Eternity in our Hearts by Renee Ratliffe, entitled Prayers for the Speakers of Life, seemed on the surface to be a potential reason to avoid writing for another few minutes.  Instead, I found the issue of shaming others addressed, indirectly, along with other failures in our speech.  But all was done through a beautiful prayer reflecting the heartbeat of our Daddy for us to be speakers of life.  There was my post – I mean, here it is.

a-song-for-love-1158871-1280x960Renee’s post and Daddy’s perfect timing in sending it my way reminded me of my need for a little help from my friends to see Christ more clearly.  In turn, I share Him with you.  May we all pray this prayer!

Click here or on any of the links above to read her post in full.

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What’s Your Name?

namesSuch a simple question, really.  When we ask it today, we use the answer to differentiate people with whom we are familiar.  It was different in Jesus’ day.  Names were given because of their meaning, not because of popularity or uniqueness.  Learning someone’s name gave insight into the person’s character.

So it was at the time Jesus and his disciples crossed the lake of Galilee to get to the region of the Gadarenes.  Beginning in Luke 8:26, we find a demon-possessed man living naked and alone among the tombs, totally out of his mind – the very reason Jesus made the journey.

This is where my observation differs from what’s been taught.  I’ve heard the man referred to repeatedly as Legion, as if that was his given name.  That is what came out of the man when Jesus asked, “What is your name?” Though the man’s mouth and vocal cords were used, it wasn’t the man who answered, but the demons, and it was the name the group of demons took for themselves.  But it wasn’t his name.

In addition, because this passage has been read incorrectly over the years, a method has been established among those in spiritual warfare.  Before casting it out, you command the demon to give its name; for instance, lust, anger, depression, greed, etc.

With these two observations in mind, take your time and read verses 29 and 30:

For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man.  Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.  Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.

To whom does Jesus ask the question?  The demons responded, but they spoke out of turn.  He spoke only to the man – the one who housed the demons.  He wanted to converse with him, to find out who he really was.  He didn’t need the demons to give their name.  Besides being unimportant to Him and what He would do, He understood their nature as liars, with no truth in them.

“What is your name?” Jesus asked the man.

Knowing this man was possessed, Jesus loved him – so much so that He asked his name.  He didn’t ask how the man came to his current, horrible state, nor did He make conditions for setting him free, such as sinning no more. He simply asked his name.  When the demons responded, they were cast out.

Can you see it as I do?  Jesus looking with such love directly into the man’s eyes even as they glared at Him with demonic fire?  Undeterred, Jesus loved the man to freedom as He watched the demons leave, enter the pigs, and drown in the lake.  What love!

We’ve so often made the demons the focus of this story.  Or the pigs that rushed into the lake once the demons entered them.  But we missed the heart of Jesus!  His freedom-producing love was for a totally lost and undeserving person.  Just like each of us, with different issues.

So, what was this man’s name? I think I will call him Unconditionally Loved.

What’s your name?

What’s the Point of That Thorn?

mini-Adamit Park (5)I don’t believe the thorn is the point of Paul’s thorn, though I’ve been involved in many discussions and heard many sermons espousing various views of the nature of that thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NIV To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What arrests my attention as I read this passage for the umpteenth time is the idea that Satan would give Paul something to keep conceit / pride / arrogance at bay.  Those are at the core of the devil’s nature, the things for which he lost his original position among the angels, the observable reality of pride going before a fall.  He would be only too happy for Paul to be puffed up with it, for it would weaken the gospel he proclaimed as well as his witness of Christ, Who was humility personified.  Keep this in mind as you read my next observation:

God did not give Paul this thorn.  He is not the author or giver of torment.   Certainly, His best was for Paul to remain unaffected by pride, thinking he was better than others or had achieved something on his own merit.  Our Father created us to live in the humility of Christ.  But even when we choose to live from pride, He doesn’t use torment to “bring us back into line.”  It’s contrary to His nature!

As I puzzled over these contradictory thoughts, I could only conclude that something had been lost in translation through the years.  Perhaps it was misplaced punctuation, or a word or phrase out of order.  This has been the case in other troubling verses I’ve studied in the Interlinear Bible and Thayer’s Concordance, where I discovered clearer meaning from the original language.

With only a minor change, the passage begins to make sense:

Because of these surpassingly great revelations, a thorn in my flesh – a messenger of Satan designed to torment me – came on me. 

So far, so good, but there is more, and these additional verses will help:

Genesis 50:20 NIV  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Romans 8:28 AMP We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

After pleading three times for the Lord to take away the thorn, Paul did not simply resign himself to the thorn because, “Yeah, yeah, Your grace is sufficient,” the attitude I might have exhibited a few times in my life.  No, he was convinced that God does work all things, including the bad, for the good of those in Christ.  In the renewed sense of God’s grace, Paul saw the underlying purpose of this tormenting thorn – to get his focus off Christ.  In God’s answer, he had greater revelation of his total dependence on Christ.  What the devil had meant for his evil, God worked for his good.

Because of these surpassingly great revelations, a thorn in my flesh – a messenger of Satan designed to torment me – came on me.  It has helped keep me from becoming conceited, though that was not its intent.  I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, but His response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Did You Say, “Intercessory Soccer”?

Apparently, I needed more of the message I shared last.  When Daddy began to speak to my spirit, I thought I was being corrected for having forgotten what He already told me.  As He continued, though, it was obvious He was building on that foundation, even in the reminder.

Just stop!  It’s not yours to carry.  You are not meant to carry the world . . . even in prayer. You are meant to walk where I am walking with you – not everywhere I’m walking.  Certainly, you may ask Me about the peoples, the awful situations, etc.  But don’t assume I’m giving it to you to carry.  I may only have you speak one word and then move on in faith in Me and My ability to carry it out.  It’s an emotional drain the enemy loves My body to get sucked into, especially when you’re told by others it’s what you should do, and it is no more than a work of the flesh.  He (the enemy) doesn’t have any problems with those, for often they are beggar prayers, not prayed from your place seated at My right hand above.

One word spoken in My authority, when initiated by My Spirit, shuts the mouths and binds the appendages of the lion.

In that moment, I was reminded of watching my son’s soccer games when he was only five.  They were so cute, and quite entertaining, at that age, as they had no concept of the nuances of soccer strategy.  The ball was set in play after each coach forced their players to point to the end of the field they were to kick the ball, and the entire team chased it, scrum-like all over the field.  Occasionally all that kicking, by both teams, led to a ball in the goal – sometimes even in the right goal.

What did that have to do with what the Lord had just spoken?  The image of those cute kids all in the same place, infrequently completing the goal, too often resembles our prayer efforts when following the crowd instead of the Spirit.

The enemy sets a ball in play with well-timed disasters or threats.  Out of a sense of should, we chase that ball in an effort to get it out of play.  Meanwhile, he adds more balls to the same field.  Most of the scrum leaves the first for the next and the next and the next, until they are overwhelmed and worn out.  If some choose to remain with a specific ball, sides begin to form as each determines theirs to be the most important.  The enemy laughs as we weaken through division he has sown.

It doesn’t have to be this way if we stop accepting every ball the enemy throws out, using up our time in fleshly efforts.  Instead, each of us only receives the balls Holy Spirit places in our specific fields of play, only does with those balls what He directs, at His designated time – speaking one word, or waiting, or speaking many words, going, or staying put.  Then we find ourselves resting in Him as never before as we live (not do) intercession, without the heavy should.  In this, we live the victory of Jesus Christ in the earth!soccer-1577758

Steps Along the Way

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You are invited to join me on a journey in progress – one I’ve been exploring for a while without sharing.  For reasons I will probably address in coming posts, I’ve been stingy.  But I can no longer keep these things to myself, so I hope you’ll join me.  Most come from conversations I had with Daddy, so some is in dialogue form, some sudden understandings by the Spirit, others indescribable.  That’s the reality of living by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  What an interesting journey!

As I talked with Daddy about the terrible situation in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Israel, and so many other nations, a familiar heaviness overwhelmed me as I considered how much I needed to pray for the entire Middle East.  People’s lives hung in the balance, spiritually and physically, but I didn’t even know where to start.  Then I heard it – His still, small voice – reminding me, “But you’re not supposed to carry it.”

Of course. None of us are supposed to carry it.  Yet the emotional appeal that bombarded social media, the one fraught with unspoken guilt, told us our duty as Christians was to carry these hurting ones in prayer.  Our emotions latched on, but they misled.  Intercession is called for, not based on emotion, though emotion might be evidenced in the process.  Rather, our intercession comes from Daddy’s perspective, from the victory He accomplished through Christ.

When we intercede, whether for far-away nations or next-door neighbors, asking (sometimes begging) God to do what He’s already done is ineffective.  Instead, asking Him what He would have us declare and decree by His Spirit concerning what will and will not take place is called for.  After all, we are not only priests, but kings.  Kings don’t ask.  Kings declare and decree.  One word or many, spoken from the heart of our King Jesus, allows us to rest and stand, regardless of what we see or hear.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. AMP

With that understanding, I was stirred to intercede for my brothers and sisters all over the world.  For all who are stuck in natural as they pray, exerting much effort with little effect, finding only frustration and even condemnation for not having prayed enough or hard enough.  What an unforgiving treadmill!  “Lord, what would You have me declare for them that they will see the reality of intercession from our seat next to Jesus and find rest there?”

Another understanding:  We have been blinded and deceived, relying on religion to teach the Bible, to teach prayer, to teach only what religion wants us to know.  But the very one who blinds and deceives and controls is the one at the root of religion!

By Your Spirit, I declare, “No more!  In Your grace, I call forth the real body of Christ, the new creation born again in Christ’s resurrection after dying with Him in His death, hungering to live and move and have their being in Christ alone, no longer by religion’s deception and control.  The body I call forth is fully alive in the righteousness of Christ in them, declaring and decreeing that same righteousness throughout the earth, in the infinite ways You speak it.”

With that, my session with Daddy ended that day, though it wasn’t the end of what He would share with me.  Stay tuned for more of this journey . . .

(This one’s for you, Donna. I long for the revelation of Christ you now have, but I thank you for spurring me on.)

No Matter the Place, It’s Always the People

Back by less than two weeks from my third trip to Israel, finally over the jet lag that dogged me longer than expected, I pondered the questions posed several times during the trip. “What is your favorite part of the trip so far?” “What is your takeaway?”

ancient olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane

Had I enjoyed exploring the grottoes near the Lebanon border on the Mediterranean? Spending unhurried time in a less visited part of the Garden of Gethsemane? Worshipping with previously unknown brothers and sisters outside of Jerusalem? Spending the night in a Bedouin camp? Absolutely! But favorite? Honestly, no matter when that question was asked, I could only remember the most immediate sight explored. Visiting so many places, several brand new to me, in such a short time, I couldn’t consider each one individually until I was home looking at my pictures and reliving the memories.Rosh HaNikra and grottoes (7)

mini-Beduoin Camp  (2)I wasn’t focused on finding that one most significant aspect of the trip, but Holy Spirit pointed out that the people we toured with made it extra special. My husband and I remarked several times while in Israel how much we were enjoying the entire group. We could interact with anyone at any time and feel none of the usual barriers found with groups.

I believe this was a specially chosen, God-picked group of just over 30 people, ranging in age from 12 to 73 and coming from the US, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, France, Philippines (via Singapore,) and Israel. But, is that what made it special?

In part, I’m sure, but I suspect God saw so much more when He drew each of us to sign up and follow through. And I know He began something with the members of this group. Or He continued something. Or He completed something. Maybe some of all three. But something was affected in the spirit realm because we were all together on this particular trip at this particular time as believers in Christ who love Israel. Besides that, my heart gets happy each time I see the faces in pictures or memories.

12183691_463541337181015_5349280319832619147_oThere is a possibility I may never know what He did, and I’m not at all bothered by it. I’m totally thankful simply to have been included. Just being thankful is a really peaceful place to reside. I think I’ll dwell here going forward, no longer demanding to understand with my mind what Christ fully understands already.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

New Glasses, Anyone?

Many might consider tedious what I spend untold hours doing, but I find it therapeutic to transcribe my handwritten journals, giving thought to the words as I type them into the computer. Each entry revisits life moments, and the Lord’s part in them, I tend to forget otherwise. Sometimes, I need more than just to remember.

I hoped to find at least a thread during this undertaking, at least a hint of a theme, to make sense of what I’d experienced. There had been so many hard things, so many hard times. Perhaps the wrong choices I had made (must have been many) and the point at which I turned away from the Lord’s joy and peace would become obvious in the multitude of keystrokes.

i-can-see-1426645Entry by entry, the threads came together, but the emerging picture wasn’t what I expected. You see, I was looking through the wrong glasses. The difficult circumstances did, indeed, take place, as did my struggle with them. But my perception of them was way off. I needed new glasses to help clear things up!

Maybe telling you how I read Hebrews 11 when wearing the wrong prescription will help. I plunge into the highlights of the lives of those often referred to as the “heroes of faith.” I agree these are great people worthy of Bible mention, until I remember the rest of their stories. You know, the parts including adultery, murder, drunkenness, self-indulgence, etc. My old lenses quickly cause what’s not written in this chapter to supersede what is. In other words, I become a harsh judge.

When I read with God’s glasses, however, my attention is drawn from the very first verse to the reason for recalling this part of their lives:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

This chapter is all about faith, real faith. Faith in the perfect Jesus Christ. And about people who somehow believed even before He came to earth in human form. It isn’t about humans living perfectly, but about what happens by faith in the One Who is perfect.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Our Father sees them through lens of the perfect Christ.

When I began to transcribe, I steeled myself for a heavy hand of correction from Holy Spirit. What a completely skewed perception – to think this of my wonderful Lord! Instead, as letter after letter and word after word made their way from the pages to my eyes, into my brain and through my fingers, He gently exchanged His glasses for mine, and I began to see myself as He sees me.

Now as I viewed the journal, I saw the reality of ongoing physical challenges and unconnected emotional hardships not being caused by my bad choices, but resulting from life in a fallen world. Had I re-read entries during those tough times, I’d have been reminded of Daddy’s gracious words of encouragement and the ever-unfolding and expanding revelation of Christ and His unconditional love. His tone was only gentle, and His responses to my rants contained only amazing grace and tender mercy, no hint of judgment. That’s Who He is! That’s Who He was at the time I lived through it! And that’s Who He will always be!

cross-fabric-1-1145687-1279x1657By the time I completed these journals, the threads had woven a simple picture, correcting my vision for the future, difficulties or not. It reveals what God always sees when He looks at me . . . and you. He sees us seated with Him in Christ Jesus. Christ, the perfect One Who received at the cross the heavy hand of correction we so deserved.

Thank You, Lord, for the new glasses! Thank You, Lord, for the cross!